Approximately 75 homes on moderately sized, nicely treed lots make up the Burl Oaks neighborhood in southern Plymouth. It’s a pie-shaped development with easy access to I-394, I-494 and the Luce Line bike trail. “We think of it as a hidden gem,” longtime resident Allison Schwaller says.
It might be a small community, but it’s big in pride. Schwaller grew up in a Burl Oaks home that her parents purchased when the development was new, in 1982. She moved away after college only to return to Burl Oaks in 2011, this time with her husband and children. They ended up purchasing their own Burl Oaks home, across the street and five houses down from Schwaller’s dad, Allen Nelson.
He’s not the only original owner still residing in Burl Oaks. Kathie Challgren, her husband and their four boys moved to Burl Oaks in 1979. “We used to be some of the youngest and now we’re the grandparents,” Challgren muses. “This neighborhood keeps rejuvenating itself. The young people who’ve moved in have great ideas to keep community spirit alive.”
One of 13-year resident Leah Asplund’s favorite aspects of Burl Oaks is how neighbors of all ages are out saying “Hi!” and getting to know each other. She recollects one time in particular when a neighbor noted a yellow Lab roaming around the development. He called her at work to make sure Asplund’s dog (also a yellow Lab) hadn’t gotten out. Her dog was safe inside, she says, but adds, “We look out for each other in this neighborhood, and for our dogs, too.”
It’s a neighbor-to-neighbor connection bolstered by a strong, formal neighborhood association. Set up by the development builders a good 35 years ago, the association is led by a board of six to seven members that meets a few times a year and collects annual association dues for common goals, purchases and activities.
Tasks of the board are many. There is some common property in the development, including a fence that runs along the border with Highway 101 and a front boulevard with landscaped, stone monuments identifying Burl Oaks. The board spends money for services to maintain, repair and, if necessary, replace these.
In addition, a publications committee sends out a (more or less) quarterly newsletter, says Asplund. It includes congratulations on babies and graduations, for example, and also introduces newly moved-in families to the neighborhood. Every several years the committee puts out a printed directory, with contact information from each family. “That’s how my neighbor was able to call me about my dog,” Asplund says.
One of the most popular functions of the board is the many parties and social gatherings sponsored by resident membership dues. The Spring Fling, usually scheduled for late May to early June, is probably Asplund’s favorite, she says, because “it involves families and takes place when winter is finally over. People are coming outside again.”
For this particular activity, says Schwaller, the budget comes from association dues and each participating family contributes a nominal fee. A volunteer host generally supplies the main course and families bring their own beverages and side dishes or desserts to share. There’s often a jump house for children and other activities.
Neighbors stand together in hardship, too. Schwaller recalls a neighbor boy who was diagnosed with leukemia, and a silent auction, to which many neighbors donated, was held by his parents to fundraise for the Leukemia Foundation. Schwaller is “grateful Burl Oaks has continued to be such a strong community. We try to embrace and welcome everyone.”
Regular Activities in Burl Oaks
- Spring Fling
- Flamingo Friday
- Night to Unite
- Two ladies’ book clubs
- Chili Cook-off
- Halloween Party
- Cup of Cheer
- Cookie Exchange
- Neighborhood Fundraiser (supporting various organizations)
- Easter Egg Hunt
- Turkey Dash
- Last-day-of-school Party